Attention married, engaged, and otherwise coupled up folks! I know every — or most — romances are beautiful and special, but I have some sad news: yours will never live up to the relationship presented in Sunday’s New York Times‘ Vows column. Sonia “Sunny” Jacobs and Peter Pringle have raised the romantic bar to insurmountable heights. So what’s so special about Jacobs and Pringle’s relationship? Oh, they were both convicted of murder and then exonerated after years in prison.
Allow the first paragraph in the Times‘ piece explain:
Most married couples will tell you that the things they hold in common helped cement their relationships. For Sonia Jacobs, 64, and Peter Pringle, 73, married in New York last Sunday, common ground was the decade and a half each had served on death row before their convictions were overturned for the murders that they steadfastly maintained they did not commit.
I know! But here’s the thing: Jacobs and Pringle were not convicted for the same crime. In 1976, Jacobs, a free-wheelin’ hippie, was on a road trip with her second husband, Jesse Tafero, and her two kids, when the man driving the car they were in, Walter Norman Rhodes Jr., was pulled over by police. Jacobs was sleeping but was awoken by gunfire; two officers were dead. Jacobs and Tafero maintained their innocence in the murders, saying Rhodes had committed the horrific crime on his own and then forced them at gunpoint to participate in the getaway. However, Rhodes accepted a plea bargain in exchange for testifying against the couple; he received life in prison while Jacobs and Tafero were sentenced to death. In 1981, Jacobs won an appeal and had her sentence reduced to life as well; meanwhile, her children, who had been placed in the care of her parents until, tragically, they were killed in a airplace crash, were placed in the foster care system. In 1990, Tafero was executed. The rest of Jacobs life was looking incredibly bleak. However! Jacobs continued to maintain her innocence and fight for her release, which she won in 1992, 17 years after her conviction, on an appeal (Rhodes had finally admitted to acting alone).
In 1998, Jacobs was sharing her story at an event in Galway, Ireland, when she saw a man, Peter Pringle, crying in the audience. “I was blown away by the horror of what had happened to her,” Mr. Pringle told the Times. “I knew I had to speak to her.” See, Pringle had lived through something similar. In 1980, he was accused of being one of three men who had murdered two police officers following a bank robbery. He was initially sentenced to death by hanging, but just days before it was set to occur in 1981, his sentenced was reduced to 40 years without parole; he spent 15 years in prison, finally winning his release in 1995. Even though he had dropped out of school at age 13, Pringle had successfully served as his own counsel.
Pringle shared his story with Jacobs after hearing hers. “At that moment, I knew that the universe had put us together for a reason,” Ms. Jacobs told the Times. They developed a relationship and fell in love. Their wedding was not attended by Jacobs’ children — though she has reestablished contact with them and they sent their well wishes — but a couple of the actresses who have played Jacobs on stage (in productions of the play based on her story, The Exonerated) were. One of them, Brooke Shields, had this to say of their union:
“But despite everything they have been through, they are not bitter or jaded, they never closed their hearts. They are two people who are at peace with themselves and with the world. They could not have been more fated and meant to be with one another.”
Here here! And not a dry eye was in the house — or in my cubicle right now. [NY Times]